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For Immediate Release
April 12 , 2004

Media Contact:
Michelle Ringuette
+1 (202) 986 6093;
+1 (202) 550 1321

Statement of Frances Kissling on Senator John Kerry's Catholicism and the 2004 Election Campaign: “Enough Eucharistic Voyeurism”

Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, released the following statement earlier today:

There is something profoundly disturbing about the current media attention focused on Senator John Kerry’s religious practice. For reporters to follow whether or not the senator receives communion is an inappropriate invasion of private and sacred space.

One cannot help but wonder what church officials had in mind when they raised this threat in the public arena. When a few bishops chose to use the sacrament of the Eucharist as a political tool, they debased that which is most holy in the Catholic tradition. The fact is that bishops and the Vatican have limited legitimate canon law options for dealing with Catholics who disagree with church suggestions. Canon law urges authorities not to rush to judgment and to use every other means of instructing or admonishing a member of the church before resorting to outright punishment—especially when that punishment involves the restriction of a Catholic’s rights, including the right to the sacraments. Through these threats, these bishops have turned the practice of religion and faith into a three-ring circus in the same way heavy-handed Vatican officials and ultra-conservatives demand that Catholic policy makers follow church dictates in secular law or risk public censure. This returns us to a day when Catholic policy makers were not trusted to be independent thoughtful contributors to the nation’s public life.

Such demands by church leaders are a breeding ground for anti-Catholicism. The inability of US church leaders to accept a diversity of views, including moral questions about abortion, has seriously damaged the church in the political arena, in the delivery of health care, and now at the core of Catholic sacramental life.

It is time for church leaders to accept that Catholics in good faith disagree with the absolute prohibition of legal abortion demanded by the Vatican. It is time for church leaders to acknowledge that the threat of denying the sacraments to Catholics who disagree with their positions has no basis in church law. It is both bad politics and bad religion.

Catholics for a Free Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being, and respect and affirm the moral capacity of women and men to make sound decisions about their lives. Through discourse, education and advocacy, CFFC works in the United States and internationally to infuse these values into public policy, community life, feminist analysis, and Catholic social thinking and teaching.

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